The crisp air was invigorating as she went for her morning walk through the small acre of wild blackberries and Douglas Fir trees behind her house. The sweet scent of the morning dew permeated her mind, emboldening Olivia’s senses while registering the fine mist surrounding her. Her brisk pace woke her up daily, better than any morning cup of coffee ever could. As she was taking in the damp air, filling her lungs, and on her skin, she paused to pick a few wild blackberries. The tart juice was limited but still attempted to drip from her fingers as she popped them in my mouth. Berries were far and in between as it was the end of the season. The cherry blossoms were starting to bloom, giving an ethereal feel of premature snow leading a stark contrast to the orange and red hues overtaking the forest. The fir trees clung stubbornly to their needles, defying the chilly morning air and changing season.
Once she logged her hour-long tour of the forest she’s long since memorized from living along the outskirts of Clackamas County, she headed back to her ranch-style house. On the way, her shoelace snagged on the thorns protruding from the outstretched fingers of the berry thicket. Nothing out of the ordinary, really, but today felt different. As she rejoined her wayward laces, she caught sight of a maple leaf. Or at least at first appearance, it resembled a maple leaf. She was drawn to this poor facsimile of the leaf, which instead of the typical autumn colors, had a black and purple hue tinting its surface. It emitted a morbid vibe she couldn’t help but be enthralled by it.
Blowing along with the wind, Olivia heard the faintest of voices, “help us!” Drawn like any magnetic field to a pole, she lifted the leaf, and immediately, the sudden urge to call out “Auntie Em! Auntie Em!” echoed in her mind! She was shrinking to the size of a microbe! She should’ve been terrified, traumatized even, but as a woman of science, she was fascinated by what was happening to her.
“We’ve been waiting for you Dr. Amendi,” called out a voice she’d never heard before yet it sounded oddly familiar—as if she’d heard it carried on the breeze every time, she’d gone out on her morning walk.
As she slowly turned around, she took in, for the first time, the full expanse of the leaf’s surface. All the grooves and pits she could only assume were the stomata, interlaced with the seemingly normal-sized organisms who are covering the new platform she was firmly planted on. “Where am I?” Olivia asked, not speaking to anyone, or anything, in particular. She looked at herself in the giant, distorted reflection of a dewdrop. I’m was still me, but…not. “What happened to me?” This time she was more direct to the jelly-like organism that seemed to be in charge. “Why am I here?”
Jelly replied with a simple “We’re sorry we had to bring you here, Dr. Amendi, but we need your help. We’re dying.”
Olivia looked all around her, registering what the jellied lifeform had told her. They were dying. The morbid feeling, she had just before she touched that out-of-place leaf wasn’t in her head. She was pulled here for a reason. “This maple tree will let go of the leaves to preserve the energy needed to keep the tree alive during the harsher winter months. That’s the tree’s way of life. Of course, you’re dying off. We’re in autumn, heading into winter.” She observed the somber expressions on the organisms around her. “There’s something more, isn’t there?” She turned back to Jelly.
The Jelly, who identified himself as Cyto, continued, “With rain patterns being disrupted and taking to extremes, and an increase of more massive deluges at once, our trees’ root systems can’t adapt as quickly to properly prepare for the winter. We’re blooming sooner, using what little reserves of groundwater we have left. The heat is so strong and intense, we’re burning off and drying up. We’ve lost so many of us across the state to wildfires and drought. Dr. Amendi, you’re a woman of science. Please, help us!”
Olivia sat and listened to their concerns. She offered, “So, you’re worried about the warming of the planet? We are too, but not every country seems to agree on how to go about solving it. We have several solutions, but executing them is the problem.”
“How do your politics work? Here, we have a council and listen to each member speak, uninterrupted.”
She could see the desperation in their translucent faces and was compelled to do something. She just didn’t know what she had the power to do. “Our countries meet and come to some agreements. Some think it’s too much; others feel the proposed policies don’t go far enough. Enforcement and accountability on what they do agree on is hard too as each country wants a seat at the leader’s table.”
Cyto looked thoughtful for a moment. “I see. With so much discourse, it’d be harder for you to make a difference with politics.” He looked back at the group behind him and nodded. “I’ll send you with my cousin, Strom. He’ll show you around so you can garner a stronger understanding of our dilemma and all we’re experiencing here. We’re going to hold a quick brainstorming session now that we have more understanding of your world.” An olive-toned jelly came forward and took her hand. His touch was dry and cool, unlike what she was expecting. She stared for the briefest of moments just marveling at what was happening around her.
Olivia allowed herself to be led along this foreign terrain with one of its natural inhabitants. “Strom, tell me something. What is it you think I can do?”
He paused thoughtfully before replying to my inquisitive nature. “We’re not sure. That’s what they’re discussing right now. You understand science. You trust the science. We know we need your help to save us and so many others around the world.”
“I appreciate your faith in me, but I’m a botanist.”
“We know. You have a unique mind to look at the effects on plants, not just the climate changes. But rather, you examine its effects on all of us.”
Olivia never really thought about her potential where climate change was concerned as she studied such specific effects of wildfire and smoke debris and their chemical remnants on her precious Oregon landscape. She started to reflect on her life’s work. Could she really make a difference to save these trees from the growing climate issues? She’d have to switch her focus of research, but she didn’t mind. Her whole goal in life was to help her beloved conifers thrive in a human-impacted world. “I’ll do whatever I can.” She responded.
“They’re ready for us,” Strom informed her after touching his hand to his forehead area. “We can send each other thoughts. You, humans, use technology to communicate. We send electrical signals over the subtle air currents.”
They headed back to the decomposing foliage she was originally standing on, to find several of her new organism friends staring hopefully at her. Cyto spoke first. “Dr. Amendi, with your knowledge of plants and pollution, we know you’ve made great strides in the scientific community. We’ve decided you need to be our spokesperson. You’ve done great research. Now, we want you to lead talks and speak at conferences on our behalf.”
Olivia didn’t hesitate. “I’ll do it. Obviously, I love plants and want them all preserved as much as possible.” After some deliberation together, both parties decided she’ll speak out more wherever she could. Using her fellow scientists she worked with, they’ll continue their work on conifers and broadleaf trees. Their job is to clean the air and provided our breathable oxygen. If they die, we won’t be far behind in perishing from this Earth.
Once the plan was finalized, Cyto put his hand on Olivia’s forehead. She woke up in her bed. Her clock registered just a quarter past five in the morning. She’d slept through her alarm and was shocked at how real her experience had been. She must have been dreaming, right? Dr. Amendi started getting ready for work and texted her most trusted colleague, Dr. Newtonic. Together, she knew they’d come up with the best, most effective use of their knowledge, resources, and research. Now, all she had to do was head to work.